Walter E. Williams

Here's my question to you: Should we be governed by good ideas?

 You say, "Williams, what do you mean?"

 Here's an example: I regularly bike for fun, cardiovascular fitness and, hopefully, for a longer, healthier life. In my opinion, that's a good idea. That being the case, would you deem it proper for Congress to enact legislation requiring Americans to bike regularly or perform some other cardiovascular fitness exercise?

 What if Congress didn't act on this good idea? Would you deem it proper and acceptable if five out of nine U.S. Supreme Court justices, in the name of "evolving standards" and promoting the general welfare, decreed that we all participate in some fitness exercise?

 Let's look at it. It's easy to dismiss my questions and example by saying they're stupid and far-fetched. A more enlightened response would be to quote from Thomas Jefferson: "Congress has not unlimited powers to provide for the general welfare, but only those specifically enumerated." In other words, Congress holds only those powers delegated or enumerated in the Constitution.

 Your followup response might be another Thomas Jefferson quotation: "[T]hat whensoever the General Government assumes undelegated powers, its acts are unauthoritative, void, and of no force." That means if Congress or the courts were to mandate biking, we could ignore it.

 Suppose biking advocates saw no hope in getting Congress to enact legislation mandating regular biking and saw the U.S. Supreme Court as a means to accomplish their ends. Tell me your preference. Would you prefer the justices to rule along the lines they did in the recent Roper v. Simmons case, finding the execution of teenagers unconstitutional because, as Justice Anthony Kennedy speaking for the 5-4 majority said, "It is proper that we acknowledge the overwhelming weight of international opinion against the juvenile death penalty"? Modified to fit my biking example, Justice Kennedy might say, "We acknowledge the overwhelming weight of international opinion that regular biking is a good idea."

 Or, would you prefer the justices to say, "We're guided by the U.S. Constitution, and we find no constitutional authority to rule that Americans must regularly bike, despite your nonsense argument about the 'promoting the general welfare' clause; get out of our court"?

Walter E. Williams

Dr. Williams serves on the faculty of George Mason University as John M. Olin Distinguished Professor of Economics and is the author of 'Race and Economics: How Much Can Be Blamed on Discrimination?' and 'Up from the Projects: An Autobiography.'
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